The pumpkin originated in Central America. Early colonists used to slice off the tops, remove the seeds and fill the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes. Voila! Pumpkin pie.
Today, the U.S. produces more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkin a year. Almost all of the processed pumpkins are grown in Illinois.
The name pumpkin comes from "pepon," the Greek word for "large melon." This year, two Ohio growers produced a pumpkin weighing 1,725 pounds — a contender for the world's largest pumpkin.
You'll want a smaller pumpkin to cook with.
Just be sure to use sugar (sometimes called baking or pie) pumpkins. Pumpkins intended for carving won't taste as good.
Sugar pumpkins can be cooked and pureed for a mashed-type side, or processed further to become the base of a velvety soup. Pumpkin also can be roasted, which will bring out its natural sweetness and enhance its deep, earthy flavors.
You can make your own pumpkin puree, and use it in recipes in place of canned pumpkin.
When selecting cooking pumpkins, look for those that still have a full, long stem attached to the top, which usually indicates the flesh will be fresh and store well.
CREAMY PUMPKIN SOUP
Although this soup is rich and creamy there is actually no cream in it. The thick body of the soup comes from the pumpkin puree and evaporated skim milk. Serves 6-8.
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 green onions, sliced thinly, tops included
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 green chili pepper, chopped
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cans chicken broth (14-1/2 oz cans) or 6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 can (16 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup undiluted, evaporated skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley
In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onions, green onions, celery and chili pepper in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent.
Add broth, pumpkin, bay leaf, and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaf. Add evaporated milk and cook over low heat 5 minutes. Do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. Serve hot.
— University of Illinois Extension OfficeSPIRAL PASTA WITH ROASTED PUMPKIN AND PLUM TOMATOES
6 cups peeled and cubed sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
4 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves or 1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
12 ounces whole-grain spiral pasta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 450 F. Position a rack in the lower third of oven.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the pumpkin with the onions and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the pumpkin in an even layer and roast until the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and sage, then roast, stirring once, until all the vegetables are browned and tender, about 10 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
Drain and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
Add the roasted vegetables and toss gently to combine.
Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve sprinkled with cheese.
— The Associated PressGREAT PUMPKIN COOKIES
We found these in a vintage edition of The Peanuts Cookbook. which notes that they are "a delicious snack while you're waiting for the Great Pumpkin." Makes about 6 dozen.
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup shortening
1 pound can pumpkin
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 400. Mix sugar, shortening, eggs and pumpkin thoroughly. Sift dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture. Blend well. Add raisins and pecans. Drop batter by teaspoonsful on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/4 cups flour
1 /2 cup cornstarch
1 1/ 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 /4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/3 to 1/ 2 cup canned pumpkin (use 1 /2 cup for a softer shortbread)
2 teaspoons sparkling or granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray bottom of a 9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice and salt in small bowl.
Beat butter and powdered sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in pumpkin until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Spread dough into prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake for 80 minutes or until firm and golden brown. Immediately sprinkle top with sparkling sugar. Cool for about 10 minutes; remove side from pan.
Use long, serrated knife to cut into wedges. Serve warm with ice cream.
— NestleQUICK PUMPKIN GINGERBREAD
15-ounce package gingerbread mix
7 1/2 ounces (half a can) solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Beat gingerbread mix, pumpkin, orange juice and egg in medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
Serve with cream cheese, if desired.
— Lexington Herald-Leader